Md. Joynal Abdin
The Financial Express on 1st March 2015
There are many research reports that have mentioned Bangladesh as one of the most potential countries for economic development and faster growth. The economic growth rate is on an average 6-6.5 per cent per year over the last one decade. A long list of monetary and fiscal incentives is offered by the government to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). The business community is awaiting joint ventures with foreign partners.
But Bangladesh has failed to get the expected return out of its different initiatives. Our racing mate countries of ’70s or ’80s like Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, etc. have gone far ahead of us in every economic parameter.
One of the main reasons why we lag behind is that we lack national reputation. We ranked among the top ten in terms of corruption and we are prone to political instability.
Foreign missions here in Bangladesh are sending messages to the citizens of their respective countries to avoid any travel here, if it is not that urgent. Where are we going?
According to a survey report, the most reputed country of the world in 2014 was Switzerland, followed by Canada, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Germany. Two Asian countries were on the list of top 20 reputed countries-Japan was placed in the 14th position and Singapore 20th.
It is not necessary all the time that the most reputed countries will be the nations having the largest economies or population sizes or they will be the top exporters or rapidly growing economies etc. For example, the 10 most populated countries are China, India, the USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia and Japan. Similarly the top 10 countries in terms of their gross domestic products (GDP) are the USA, China, Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Brazil, Russia, Italy and India. The top 10 exporting nations are China, the USA, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, France, South Korea, Russia, Italy and the UK. The world’s top 10 happiest nations are Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Austria, Iceland and Australia.
Now, the reputation of a nation is very important. It is important for many reasons. Some of those are as follows:
- Foreign investment: The reputation of a nation inspires foreign investors to invest in their country. Corruption-free society, political stability and fiscal and tax benefits could make a country the first choice of foreign investors for investment or undertaking any joint venture. Every amount of foreign investment would lead to creation of jobs, technology transfer, revenue earnings etc.
- Foreign tourists: A secure country with rich heritage and natural beauty could be an attractive destination for a large number of foreign tourists every year. It could fetch a good amount of revenue.
- Premium facilities from other states: A reputed nation could enjoy premium facilities like visa-free entry or on-arrival visa, scholarship, easy access to migration etc. from other countries.
- To get supporters in international forums: A reputed nation could get diplomatic support from different global or regional forums like the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the European Union (EU) and it may help in regional or multilateral trade agreements.
- To increase export earning: A reputed country could easily enjoy duty-free and quota-free access for its products to export markets.
- To be part of global value chain: Countries like China and Singapore are the part of many global value chains today. It is possible only due to their transparent governance and corruption-free environment.
- To develop our homeland with support from foreign friends: Reputation is a major factor for any nation to get international assistance, development project finance, grant and even any loan from global lenders.
A nation’s reputation depends on some key factors like its history, political stability, continuity of policies, good governance, good law and order situation and natural beauty. We do have everything in Bangladesh except one or two of them-political stability and good governance. To build reputation of the nation the government has to –
- Understand perception of general people,
- Act neutrally to make a drive successful,
iii. Identify national competitive strength,
- Undertake a branding and reputation-building strategy,
- Determine key performance indicators and ensure accountability, and
- Monitor success on an ongoing basis.
Countries are spending millions of dollars to build national reputation and attract tourists and investors. For example, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce called upon their government to increase investment in the country’s marketing budget. Gambia’s Tourism Board has involved the former president of the English Football Association in a campaign to interest tourists in their country. Similarly, Australia is spending $ 360 million on a single campaign titled ‘A Different Light’ to build its national reputation and attract tourists and investors.
Bangladesh needs to take a multidimensional policy with a concrete action plan to resolve political complexities peacefully and promote the Branding Bangladesh Campaign at home and abroad.
We could promote our existing tourist attractions by organising tourism fairs abroad. Development of potential tourist spots by making available world-class facilities could be a mid-term agenda for branding Bangladesh. Diplomacy is also necessary to improve national reputation. Our missions abroad could play a vital role in this regard. Organising investment fairs, tourism fairs, gathering of intellectuals, global events like the Cricket World Cup, hosting meetings of global and regional groupings, etc. could increase our acceptability abroad.
Above all, our political leaders have to decide on what they want to do with the country. If they want to do whatever they feel necessary without any ethical judgment, then no action will yield results. They should play their respective roles in building a safer, secure and prosperous Bangladesh for the next generation.